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‘MAN ENOUGH TO STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE’: MICKEY’S RALLYING CALL

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MIKEY JOHNSTON stood up to be counted when it came to taking a vital penalty-kick in the Scottish Cup Final shoot-out against Hearts on Sunday.

Ryan Christie had just seen former team-mate Craig Gordon push away his attempt and the Tynecastle side were leading 3-2 when the winger, who has been blighted by injury for most of the year, stepped forward to take his effort.

Johnston stroked it low into the keeper’s right-hand corner of the net and then Conor Hazard made his second save of the nerve-jangling crescendo when he push away when he got down to his left to thwart Craig Wighton. That left the way open for Kristoffer Ajer to thrash in the concluding kick and the rest is wonderful history.

The tricky touchline operator is ready to stand up again as the champions face a crucial three-game period before their visit to Ibrox on January 2.

Johnston, speaking to the Glasgow Times, said: “Every player has injuries and it’s about how you bounce back. You either sink or swim. I am back, working hard and trying to get fit.

“Hopefully, I can bring something different to the team and add a bit of what we’ve been missing.

“I think there is always responsibility playing for Celtic and you need to be big enough and man enough to step up to the challenge. I definitely think I have something to bring to the team.

“There is always pressure on Celtic teams and we need to be man enough to deal with it. Every game is vital to us and I do think we are capable of going on a run.

“We have shown that in the past and it’s the same team. We have shown we are winners and I feel we can win these games.”

Neil Lennon could give Johnston his first start of the season this evening against Ross County at Parkhead ahead of the short trip to Hamilton on Boxing Day and then the grand finale to an eventful 2020 against Dundee United in the east end of Glasgow a week tonight.

And then it is all eyes on Govan to kick off a brand new year where history beckons yet again for the champions.

* DON’T miss the unbeatable match report from Celtic v Ross County this evening – only in your champion CQN.

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